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Imee urges admin to put SRA leadership in order

Senator Imee Marcos on Tuesday urged the administration to immediately put in order the leadership of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) amid controversies on sugar importation.

“Masalimuot na masyado ang usapin tungkol sa asukal kaya’t sana sa lalong madaling panahon maisaayos na ang organisasyon ng SRA,” Marcos told reporters.

(The issues on sugar is already too complicated so hopefully, the organization of the SRA will be fixed as soon as possible.)

The lawmaker issued the remark when asked if new SRA officer-in-charge Domingo Panganiban should answer the allegations linking him to the so-called “state-sponsored sugar smuggling” raised by Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros.

According to Marcos, Panganiban will get the officer in charge position in the SRA as he is the second highest official in the Department of Agriculture.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. sits as the Agriculture secretary.

Hontiveros earlier filed a proposed Senate Resolution 497 seeking a Blue Ribbon committee probe into the alleged irregular sugar importation last February 9 involving 260 20-foot containers of sugar from Thailand.

Hontiveros had said that the February 9 shipments could not have been covered by Sugar Order 6, as the allocation for this would only start on February 24. It was also not covered by earlier orders, as the earliest arrival date would be on March 1.

She said Panganiban — who represented President Marcos in the SRA Board — had a January 12 letter addressed to one of the alleged sugar importers of the questioned importation, saying the allocation was “per instruction of Executive Secretary [Lucas] Bersamin.”

Interpreting the memorandum issued by the Office of the Executive Secretary as an approval to proceed with the importation, Panganiban said he instructed “three capable and accredited companies to proceed with the importation of sugar provided that they agree to reduce the prices of sugar.”

On March 2, the DA gave its go-signal for the release of the imported sugar that was flagged by Hontiveros as not covered by earlier sugar orders.

The go-ahead was issued by Panganiban “considering that allocations under Sugar Order No. 6, Series of 2022-2023 had been duly awarded, and considering further the Memorandum from the Office of the Executive Secretary dated January 13, 2023, and the Memorandum from the Office of the Senior Undersecretary of the Department Agriculture on even date…”

Hontiveros also questioned Panganiban’s sugar importers, whom, she said, may gain billions from the importation.

This is not the first time that the Senate blue ribbon committee has been asked to investigate an issue related to sugar importation.

In August last year, the committee investigated the alleged unauthorized issuance of Sugar Order No. 4, which would have allowed the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar.

The Senate blue ribbon committee recommended the filing of administrative and criminal charges against an Agriculture official and three former Sugar Regulatory Administration officials over the controversial SO No. 4. —NB, GMA Integrated News